Livingston’s Marina Lombardi may appear somewhat stoic and laid back while having a conversation, but the senior catcher is far from that when she’s competing for her high school softball team.
The Big Green Machine’s ‘Silver Charm’ has had quite the athletic career at Livingston High School, including being a part of two Essex County championship teams, as well as a pair of Super Essex Conference championships and back-to-back NJSIAA sectional titles.
Marina, with her mother, Elena and dad, Chuck, after Livingston’s 2013 ECT championship. (Courtesy of Elena Lombardi)
Livingston coach Jason Daily can’t believe how quickly four years have passed, since the unassuming Lombardi first took over as Livingston’s catcher in the magical 2012 season, when the Lancers finished 29-1.
“Marina and (senior pitcher Sami Passeri) are the final links to those great teams at Livingston (from 2011-2013),” said Daily. “Marina and Sami are our senior leaders this season, with a very young team. A few years ago, it was Marina who was the young kid and learned so much from those outstanding players we had.”
Lombardi’s prowess behind the plate has been known for a few years now. Not many teams will attempt to run on her, as her arm is not only accurate, but a lot stronger than people realize.
“She’s gotten better over the years with her throws,” said Daily. “She’s very intelligent and sees things quickly.”
A very familiar scene as Lombardi prepares to throw out another base runner. (Courtesy of Elena Lombardi)
Perhaps Lombardi’s biggest asset is calling her own game behind the plate, a rarity in New Jersey high school softball.
“It’s always been that way here,” said Daily. “I’ve never called pitches. To me, if I do that, I’m missing other important parts of the game. I’ve left that to our catchers, and Marina calls a tremendous game. Does she get shaken off at times? Sure, but she does a tremendous job of adjusting, too.”
During Daily’s 15-year tenure as head coach at Livingston, Lombardi is just the second catcher to start for four consecutive years. When she emerged as the starter in 2012, she was catching Secretariat, Jess Peslak, who was then a junior. Peslak had a tremendous season that year, finishing 26-1, with over 300 strikeouts, as the Lancers won the SEC, ECT and state sectional title.
“Marina and Jess meshed right away,” Daily recalled. “You always wonder how a freshman will fit into a starting role, especially at a key position like catcher and working with a kid of Jess’ ability. But those two were great.”
The ‘other’ Silver Charm.
After two years with Peslak and enjoying incredible success, Lombardi and Passeri were batterymates last year, and this season. Lombardi has also worked with junior pitcher Syd (The Kid) McCormack.
“Marina is the leader now,” said Daily. “Sami and Syd have different styles, and Marina does a good job in getting them settled.”
At the plate, Lombardi, the daughter of Chuck and Elena Lombardi, and granddaughter of the incomparable ‘Poppop’ Bob Lombardi (who is a regular at Marina’s games), is clearly one of Livingston’s best offensive threats. In a recent game against West Essex, she was walked three times. Her power to the opposite field continues to improve.
Marina hopes to play on the collegiate level this fall, and is expected to attend Montclair State University.
A funny story about Marina. Two summers ago, I was having dinner with Jean and Ed Peslak, along with Jess Peslak and Marina at a favorite spot in Belleville. When dinner was over the check came, Marina reached into her purse to pay her share.
“That’s nice of you,” said Ed, with a smile. “Now put it away.”
It’s that kind of respect Marina has long held for adults and friends.
“We’re going to miss her a lot next year,” said Daily. “She’s not only a tremendous player, but as nice a person as you’ll ever meet.”
A Silver Charm, and then some.